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Living Emotional Crutch

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He's there for the ruff times.

Leslie: You just do everything your boyfriend tells you to do? Make any pancakes lately?
Ann: He has two broken legs.
Leslie: Yeah, and he's got three crutches. And one of them is you. And the other two are crutches.

This person, let's call her Alice,note  provides a troubled character, let's call him Bob, with the emotional, psychological, and/or moral support to function. Sometimes to function at all. She might be his first good friend, a Love Interest, a psychiatrist/priest Confidant, or a full-blown Caretaker to Bob, serving as a Morality Chain or Kid with the Leash to rein in Bob's darker tendencies, deliver pep talks and administer a Cooldown Hug.

Summed up, while she's alive and near him, Bob is a better, happier person.

This is why she will usually get kidnapped or killed. Bob's reaction will be one of two extremes: a psychotic Unstoppable Rage on par with The Hulk in the throes of withdrawal from Gamma-Cocaine, or comatose gibbering. The middle road is a Tranquil Fury of deadly determination.

There are some dark uses of this trope. If Bob is psychotically possessive, he will go to any lengths to protect Alice from perceived threats, culminating in destroying everyone she loves so she becomes trapped in an All Take and No Give relationship. This is especially tragic if Alice genuinely wants to help him, but he's already sliding too far to help. When she inevitably leaves him/is rescued, Bob's mental state takes a nosedive.

Sometimes, Alice will be able to introduce Bob to other friends, lessening his dependence on her. Very rarely, she will be able to cure him of his dependence entirely, or give him the necessary tools and resolve to survive when she's gone.

This trope has some basis in Real Life. People like Bob might be diagnosed with dependent personality disorder or, if they're cripplingly shy around most others, avoidant personality disorder.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Billy Butcher in The Boys has two. The first was his wife, until she died. The second was his dog...until he died.
  • Rick Jones to the Incredible Hulk. Also Betty Banner and (on a good day) Doc Samson.
  • Deconstructed in the Supergirl Green Lantern crossover Red Daughter of Krypton. Guy Gardner tries to convince his ex-girlfriend Ice to get back together, stating that she keeps him sane. She replies that isn't a good foundation for a relationship.
    Guy: Come on, babe. Give me a shot. I need this— out there...It's no easy. I need a reason to keep it together.
    Tora: Guy, you have your good qualities. But you must see why the idea of being your sole link to sanity is less than appealing to me. The weight of that — we'd never get out from under it.
  • Exploited in Watchmen, where The Government employs young women (Janey Slater and later, Laurie Juspeczyk) as Living Emotional Crutches for the Physical God Dr. Manhattan, realizing that this is pretty much the only thing that can preserve the last shreds of humanity within him (and also incidentally, keep him on the planet and working for the right people). True enough, as soon as Laurie dumps him, Dr. Manhattan moves to Mars with no intent of ever visiting humanity again. And it's Laurie again who manages to renew his interest in humanity and come back to Earth, however briefly.

    Films — Animation 
  • Belle is the Beast's emotional crutch in Beauty and the Beast. According to Word of God, Beast hides the carcasses of animals he's slaughtered in the west wing, which is part of why he doesn't want her in there; if Belle hadn't come along, he would have turned full Beast and lost his humanity.
  • Marlin to Dory in Finding Nemo. Normally she's a Cloudcuckoolander with all the long term memory of a sieve, but when she meets up with Marlin on his quest to rescue his son, she finds she can focus and remember the address of the dentist who has captured Nemo. When Marlin loses faith in finding Nemo, he leaves her to avoid remembering. Her speech pleading him to stay is one big Tear Jerker, as is her state when Nemo later finds her swimming to and fro trying desperately to remember what exactly she lost.
  • Anna is her older sister Elsa's emotional crutch in Frozen. A large part of what Elsa has been doing her entire life is to protect Anna. After their parents' deaths, Anna is the only known relative Elsa has left.
  • In Tekkonkinkreet, White and Black have been living together for years. When they are forcibly separated, White starts filling out his Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book (and the walls) and Black makes a White puppet and talks to it like it was White. Then the mooks shoot the puppet, which triggers Black's Despair Event Horizon and releases the Superpowered Evil Side.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A major plot point in About Alex. Ben is this to Alex, and majorly resents Alex for putting him in the position. Alex's main arc is learning to let Ben go.
  • In Adam, Beth Buchwald tries to become one of these and use The Power of Love to help poor Adam be just like All of the Other Reindeer. It doesn't work.
  • In Disco Pigs, Runt is this for Pig. When she starts showing interest in other people, things go south very quickly.
  • Halloween (2007) plays Michael's obsession with Laurie this way, being the only person in his family he loved other than his dead mother. It doesn't end well.
  • The Hunger Games: Prim starts out as being this for Katniss. Eventually Peeta takes over the role instead.
  • Daisy the puppy, a gift to John Wick from his recently-deceased wife, is a combination Living Emotional Crutch and Morality Chain. And then, a few days after his wife dies, someone just had to murder the dog while stealing his Cool Car.
  • This trope is likely to come up in any Lifetime Movie of the Week.
  • The movie May had the eponymous May form a close relationship with Adam and ever so gingerly crawls out of her Shrinking Violet pot...only for things to Go Horribly Wrong when they later break up. She descends into full on horror-movie Serial Killer mode and proceeds to make the friend of her dreams from the most beautiful body parts of those around her.
  • Watson to Holmes in Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
  • The Steven Soderbergh remake of Solaris (2002) implies this is the reason for Rheya's suicide
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Hank is this to the dispirited Charles; the latter is so desperate to escape from his mental pain that he would most likely have died from alcohol poisoning if McCoy wasn't around to supervise him. But it works the other way around, too, as the approval-seeking Hank has voluntarily suppressed his individuality (i.e. he has no career, hobby, or social life) just to attend to Xavier's needs 24/7, and is thus defining himself exclusively through his dutiful service to his ex-mentor. These are strong indicators that they are both trapped in an unhealthy codependent relationship.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes are this to each other. Steve's Heroic Sacrifice in Captain America: The First Avenger comes on the heels of Bucky's own supposed death earlier in the film, while Bucky's actor Sebastian Stan comments that the only reason that Bucky hasn't put a bullet in his own skull by the time of Captain America: Civil War after regaining his memories, both as himself and as the Winter Soldier, is because it will only cause Steve pain now that they both know the other is alive. After Peggy's death at the beginning of Civil War, Bucky is the only tie Steve has left to his original time, and, in many ways, the only family he really has left, which is why he can't let his best friend go, no matter how hard he tries.
    • Tony Stark's crutch is his long-time Beleaguered Assistant and Hypercompetent Sidekick Pepper Potts. All three of the Iron Man movies make it clear that he can't function without her — and that includes before they finally acted on the Unresolved Sexual Tension between them (which is implied to have lasted almost as long as they've known each other) and became a couple. It's strongly implied that many of Tony's poor choices over the course of Civil War is because, at the time, he and Pepper were no longer in a relationship.

    Music 
  • "Crutch" by Matchbox Twenty
    I don't wanna be a crutch, one step away from down
  • Dinosaur Jr.: "The Post"
    She's my post to lean on
    And I just cut her down
  • The narrator of Red's "Pieces" has one. It's a God Is Love Song but, like most Red songs, can be interpreted in a secular manner:
    You call my name
    I come to you in pieces
    So you can make me whole
    I've come undone
    But you make sense of who I am
    Like puzzle pieces in your hand
  • Evanescence's "Taking Over Me".
    I have to be with you to live, to breathe
    You're taking over me
  • Deconstructed in Ally Burnett's "We Would've Broken Up Once You Heard This Song Anyway".
    I want you to know that when I leave
    It'll be the last you'll ever see of me
    I tried so damn hard to fix you
    To make you believe in what I see
    If you wanna be broken, be broken
    I won't dare try to mend you again
    I've tried my best to get through
    But there's no getting in

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Many of the more poignant Calvin and Hobbes stories imply this. In spite of bullies and all sorts of other bad things in his life, Calvin will always have his best friend Hobbes.
  • A lot of the relationships in Peanuts are shown to be this, since the characters are brimful of neurosis. (Just temporarily take someone out of the picture and place your bets on who will have a breakdown. Someone always does.) Even Linus's blanket is an example, as it often takes on a life of its own.

    Theater 
  • In Antony and Cleopatra, according to Enobarbus, men to women, because women supposedly can't control their emotions.
    Enobarbus: Why, then, we kill all our women. We see how mortal an unkindness is to them. If they suffer our departure, death’s the word.
    • Antony has quite the opposite opinion, at least for Cleopatra.
  • In Company, the lyrics of What Would We Do Without You? indicate that Bobby is this to his married friends, or at least to their marriages.
    What would we do without you?
    How would we ever get through?
    Should there be a marital squabble,
    Available Bob'll
    Be there with the glue.
  • In Lizzie, Emma is this to her younger sister, the title character. Lizzie's already pretty unstable, but it is very telling that she finally snaps and commits double homicide when Emma's left town for a few days.

    Web Comics 
  • Bittersweet Candy Bowl deconstructs this with Mike and Lucy's relationship. At the start of the series, she's extremely heavy on the Slap-Slap part of Slap-Slap-Kiss...but if anything happens to Mike that she's not inflicting, she breaks down. Mike is painfully aware of his Crutch status, and secretly resents it — so much so that by the time Lucy's Character Development has made her less abusive and willing to admit her feelings, he rejects them, having been worn down into someone who's a lot less nice.
  • Deconstructed with Satellite Character 13 in Depression Comix. The unseen depressive's manipulations and dependence on her leaves her so exhausted that she eventually leaves him. Some time later, she learns that he committed suicide.
  • In Drowtales, Ariel has this relationship with Faen, being the first person she called friend. Also suggested to go the other way as well, since Faen is an unstable empath who has difficulty relating to people.
  • Fox Maharassa was a Crutch to boyfriend/best friend Collin throughout most of Friendly Hostility. When Fox loses the Crutch status, the relationship falls apart, although this is only one of the factors that resulted in the Downer Ending.
  • Black and White from Grey is... are this to each other. Black needs White around to be able to think clearly and White needs Black to bring color into his world. Their friends and family, however, saw this as unhealthy, which eventually leads to White leaving for two years.
  • Gamma is Zimmy's Crutch (among other things) in Gunnerkrigg Court.
    • Zimmy cannot function without Gamma. Zimmy's powers leak out whenever Gamma falls asleep or is absent. This normally wouldn't be so bad...it's just Zimmy's powers consist of Reality Warping, which often sucks nearby other people into demented and twisted hallucinations.
  • In Homestuck, one of the four kinds of troll romance is moirallegiance, in which a relatively calm troll pacifies a dangerously hot-tempered one. There are several in-story examples.
    • Eridan and Feferi's relationship is a deconstruction of this. Feferi keeps Eridan's genocidal tendencies in check, but Eridan eventually wants to take things to a more intimate level, meaning he can't reciprocate and keep her from doing stupid things. However, the chore of constantly keeping her moirail from killing off all the land-dwelling trolls has emotionally drained Feferi. Once they get into the Medium and she doesn't have to look after him anymore, Feferi tells him that they can't be more than friends and splits with her newfound freedom. Later they seem to just barely be able to interact with each other, and in the end, Eridan goes on a rampage, but before Feferi can run him through with the culling fork to stop him, he one-shot kills her with White Science of Hopelessness.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!—Even though she likes to seem aloof, Galatea clearly needs to believe her sister Molly is there for her. She comes close to having a panic attack at even the slightest suspicion that Molly might abandon her.
  • In the now defunct Loserz, Jodie does not take her two friends leaving her alone for other activities well at all. It only takes about a day or two apart from them for her to go insane and try to replace them with puppets.
  • Marten is this for Faye in Questionable Content, in the earlier parts of the comic. Character Development hit Faye, making her attachment to Marten vanish. It was difficult for both of them.

    Web Original 
  • Dan becomes this to Michael in Agents of Cracked. According to Michael, if Dan left, "I'd get really sad, and then I'd die. Is that what you want?!"
  • Tacoma is this for Donnie in Demo Reel. He loves Rebecca too, but whenever Tacoma's upset or sick, there's a suspiciously large amount of crying and cuddling going on.
  • Iriana and Mille are this to each other in Ilivais X. Iriana has nobody else, as while she's decent enough to the male members of the team, she's still quite afraid of men. The only reason she avoids constantly searching for ways to die is because she wants to figure out exactly what she feels. Mille, on the other hand, is so used to being a one-night-stand object of lust that she feels unloved, and is obsessed with earning the love of someone who doesn't just want to sleep with her. Granted, she's far more capable of independence and will act on her own, but if separated from Iriana she shifts all of her thoughts to bringing them back together, and can't stand to keep away even after a brief period of being abused by her.

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